It’s that time of year again, with Christmas behind us and a New Year unfolding before us, heady with the promise of self-improvement. We are currently being inundated by the diet and exercise industries’ most aggressive campaigns: ‘Go sugar free in 2019’, ‘How to drop the holiday kilos’ and my favourite, ‘New Year – New You’, as if I didn’t like old me. After over-indulging during the festive season many of us feel the pressure to get back into healthier habits in the New Year and there is nothing wrong with that. The danger is that our desire to establish healthier habits is often fed by a culture of body shaming that plays into the myth of attaining happiness by sculpting the ‘perfect body’.
For anyone new to the body positivity movement, let me break this down for you:
- Your body is already perfect, it is a vessel taking you through life and it ebbs and flows as you do.
- All bodies are beautiful and valid regardless of size, shape, skin colour, gender or disability. End of discussion.
- The diet industry is profiting off making you hate your own body. It’s like an abusive boyfriend, cut ties with it and embrace your body in all its unique glory because you can’t hate yourself into loving yourself.
Being body positive does not mean you can’t pick up some healthier habits in the New Year. But it does mean you should examine and frame your goals in a way that promotes a positive and healthy relationship with your body and self-image. Here are my tips for establishing body positive heath goals for 2019, I call it New Year – Still fucking fabulous.
- Do not set a goal weight.
This is very important, your goal may be weight loss for health reasons but an arbitrary number on a set of scales is not an indication of your overall health. Obsessing weekly or daily over whether a number has risen or fallen is not going to help you feel better. Instead set a health goal like ‘I want to feel full of energy’.
- Find your love of movement
Our bodies were meant to move, regular exercise improves your mood and your sleep and can help reduce stress. But that doesn’t mean that you should hit the gym for 3 hours a days when you hate going to the gym. If you don’t like running don’t run, if you don’t like the gym don’t resolve to be a gym bunny. Find what you love and do it for enjoyment; take up dancing, kayaking, hiking or martial arts. Don’t concern yourself with calories burnt to calories consumed, concern yourself with memories made and confidence gained.
- Do not start a restrictive eating plan.
There is a reason diets are ineffective in the long term, they are often restrictive and unfulfilling. Diets encourage a disordered attitude to food, ‘this is bad food and this is good food’. Food is food, some it healthier, some of it unhealthier but associating guilt with eating is not healthy. Don’t be the friend at dinner asking if anything on the menu is keto and ordering lemon water instead of wine. Food is fuel but it is also a tactile pleasure tied up in our socialising and celebration rituals. Enjoy your indulgences, have the glass of wine and the cheesy pasta. Instead of a diet plan I recommend resolving to try intuitive eating, this is learning to look for what your body is craving and giving it this. If you’re low in iron you might feel like a steak, if you need fibre you may crave a leafy salad or some fruit. Listen to your body and fuel it with what it desires but remember to indulge yourself occasionally.
- Work on loving your body just as it is.
Your body is worthy of your love and respect now, it is not a ’work in progress’, it is not a goal to be achieved. You are the work in progress, your body is just the vessel. Pinning our happiness on a ‘perfect body’ is like sailing for the horizon, it’s a destination you can’t reach and meanwhile you’re missing the journey. Work on celebrating your body now – Look at yourself nude more without judgement, buy sexy lingerie and wear it to work, dance naked, buy beautiful clothes and flaunt your figure!
Embrace yourself as you are and work on your health to feel better, not look better, because you’re already beautiful.